Watch Jennifer Lawrence’s hair.
By the time she looks like Darryl Hannah, she’s in so deep we know her espionage career is on high alert.
The movie, of course, is “Red Sparrow” and it’s packed with lies, deceit and loyalty oaths. It’s like most Cold War dramas that involve double agents and training schools. Hair shifts are just part of the drill.
In the film, Lawrence plays a brunette ballerina who suffers a career-ending injury. Her uncle (who looks an awful lot like Vladimir Putin) sends her off to a training academy where she is slated to become an agent for Russia. “Your body belongs to the state,” she’s told and, sure enough, she’s expected use whatever it takes to get valuable information.
Along the way, she’s assigned to seduce an American CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) but there’s a kind of bond that forms that could jeopardize her life and his.
Directed by Francis Lawrence, “Red Sparrow” moves slower than it should and forces Lawrence (and others) to toy with hit-and-miss accents. She has a few chase moments, too, but the worst of this involves someone wrapping a wire around an enemy’s neck. Listen closely and you’ll get the clues to uncover who she’s really working for.
Stuffed with cameos by Jeremy Irons, Mary-Louise Parker, Charlotte Rampling, Ciarian Hinds and Joely Richardson, “Red Sparrow” has so many red herrings it could open a fish market. Luckly, those folks drop their own clues so you have a pretty solid idea by the second hour who’s playing for what team.
Edgerton doesn’t get as much time as he should (considering his billing) and Matthias Schoenaerts (as that Putin-like relative) is so convincingly Russian you’ll want someone to write a biography so he can take advantage of the similarity.
Because there are so many agents, double-agents and innocent bystanders in this, Francis Lawrence can’t keep a handle on the accents. Oddly, all do some vague English that should be called into question, (considering Russian agents wouldn’t speak English to agents who they know are Russian). The film jumps around geographically, too, and gives Lawrence enough opportunity to seduce so the film fully earns its R rating.
Naturally, there’s a sickly relative (Richardson) who serves as the reason Lawrence’s character is willing to do anything Rampling says she must.
“Red Sparrow” has a “Bridge of Spies” moment, an “Atomic Blonde” section and a whole lot of "The Americans" that looks puny in comparison. The film is too long, Edgerton is too disposable (what, Jeremy Renner wasn’t available?) and Lawrence is much too interested in extending her reach.
For a spy film, it doesn’t uncover anything new. This "Red Sparrow” flaps its wings a lot but never reaches a destination that's meaningful.